31 May 2012
Workers at Orient Spice Company clean raw turmeric before processing. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Trading in spices helped bring Christianity to India nearly two millennia ago, and the country continues to depend on spices for much of its livelihood. Many of the workers in processing plants are women, such as those shown above, who do the hard work of cleaning raw turmeric. Photojournalist Peter Lemieux looks at the spice trade in the May issue of ONE:
Since the 14th century, Cochin has served as the hub of the coast’s spice trade.
At first glance, the city’s spice industry today resembles that of a bygone era. A large safe harbor dominates the cityscape. A dense concentration of processing and warehousing facilities crowds the waterfront. Countless traders and middlemen walk the streets, going about their day-to-day business.
A timeworn port city, Cochin also represents Kerala’s melting pot, with its diverse religious communities, global marketplace and world-class tourist attractions. As always, its spices reach markets all over the world. In the past 20 years, exports to the United States in particular have doubled and now constitute the largest share leaving Cochin’s port.
But on closer look, it becomes clear how much the business has adapted to the modern world. Traders now sit in offices glued to their computer screens, monitoring up-to-the-second fluctuations in global prices. The ticker list of spices is lengthy and includes many new hybrid varieties, each offering something special — brighter color, greater flavor, a longer shelf life. Advanced technologies in processing, packaging and shipping have also transformed the business.
“Fifteen years ago, there were no quality standards in India for spice export. Any low quality item could be shipped,” explains Bobby Jacob Markose, owner of Orient Spice Company, over the hum of his spice grinders pulverizing raw turmeric. “But that phase is out. Technology is here now. ’Food Safe’ is the motto. Cleaning, grinding and steam sterilization are the facilities that can be sustained now.”
You can read more in the article Kerala’s Spice Coast.
30 May 2012
Tags: India Kerala Indian Christians Thomas Christians
Archbishop Antonio Franco cuts the ribbon on the new wing of the Ephpheta Institute.
Sami El-Yousef is CNEWA's regional director for Palestine-Israel and advises the Sisters of St. Dorothy, who run the institute.
A few days ago, the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem — a program CNEWA has supported since its inception 40 years ago — celebrated the inauguration of a new expansion. The new three-story annex will host the 11th and 12th grades, in addition to a library, a new indoor play/educational room and additional storage facilities. The physical expansion of the school premises was a historic day for many reasons. Most significantly, the students at Ephpheta will no longer finish their education at 10th grade, but will complete a full educational cycle through the 12th grade, after which they will receive a high school diploma. Thus, there will be no graduation at the school this year; the 10th graders will proceed to 11th grade and will eventually graduate in 2014, much better equipped to either move on to a university education or to some other career track of their choosing. They will certainly be better equipped to meet life’s challenges with a high school diploma in hand.
Another reason why this was a historic event is that the full funding for this expansion project (around $600,000) came from a Palestinian Christian family originally from Bethlehem that now lives in the United States. These benefactors wish to remain anonymous. The family clearly did well financially in the diaspora and decided to give something back — to support this leading Christian institution, providing hope and a first-class education to over 150 deaf children in Palestine. We hope this will be encouragement to other Palestinian families to do the same.
Present at the ceremony were many dignitaries, including the Apostolic Delegate to Palestine Archbishop Antonio Franco, the mayor of Bethlehem, the Italian consul general, and representatives from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education and the governor’s office. All were most pleased with this development, but the people happiest of all were the students and their parents.
Congratulations to Ephpheta on this important milestone!
To learn more about the work of the Ephpheta Institute, click here. Other recent milestones include the celebration of the institute's 40th anniversary and a pastoral visit as part of CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar's journey to the Holy Land last year.
Sisters and teachers gather in the newly inaugurated wing. (photo: CNEWA)
30 May 2012
Tags: Jerusalem Education Donors Bethlehem
Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA president, Archbishop George Bakhouny and Father Guido Gockel, vice president for the Middle East and Europe, visit with CNEWA staff in New York.
(photo: Erin Edwards)
With the crisis in Syria escalating by the day, a leading religious figure from the region paid us a visit today at our New York office.
He’s Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop George Bakhouny of Tyre, Lebanon, who is making his first visit to the United States. Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president,met the archbishop during his visit to the Holy Land last year.
The archbishop described the situation in his homeland as “stressful” — the stream of refugees arriving from Syria is becoming a flood—but he repeatedly expressed the hope that a peaceful end to the crisis in Syria can be found. “We don’t want a military solution,” he said. “We want reconciliation.”
He said he sees the church’s role as being a “mediator,” to help facilitate “conversations” between factions.
Before departing, he wanted in a special way to express his gratitude, especially to the benefactors of CNEWA, for their prayers and generous support.
29 May 2012
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Melkite Greek Catholic Church
The abbess, Sister Isidora, poses for a picture at Gorioc Monastery, located outside Kosovo’s northwestern town of Istok. (photo: Laura Boushnak)
Journalist Joost van Egmond reports on events in southeast Europe for Time magazine. While preparing his article for the May 2012 issue of ONE, he recorded the following thoughts and observations.
Always proceed with caution when driving a Serbian car in Kosovo. Wounds from the 1999 war, which saw Kosovo declare independence from Serbia, are still fresh. While many stories of ethnic aggression surely belong in the realm of urban legend, there’s hardly anybody who does not feel awkward exposing himself as a Serb in areas where they do not form a solid majority.
When we are indeed stopped by the police, the officer, though not unfriendly, hardly covers his profiling: “We stopped you because of your Serbian license plates, and we thought there might be a problem.” Presenting a Dutch passport helps in a case like this. We end up being escorted to the Serbian Orthodox church.
Twelve years after the war, ethnic relations remain hyper-charged in Kosovo. The Republic of Kosovo, which has been recognized by some 75 countries, including all major Western states, has become dominated by ethnic Albanians, the local majority that had been disadvantaged under the rule of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Yet a number of Serbs remain, scattered across the country, united in their grievances against a state they do not see as theirs. Serbia meanwhile continues to assert a nominal claim over its former province, without being able to offer much to its citizens there.
We’re on our way to the monastery of Gorioc, where five Serbian Orthodox nuns live on a hillside, in the midst of an area dominated by ethnic Albanian Kosovars. In their raven-black habits, they epitomize all that’s Serbian. Until recently, they were surrounded by barbed wire, under the protection of NATO soldiers armed to the teeth. Now, they live out in the open, dependent on the nearby town for their supplies. How do they adapt to the post-war reality that is their daily lives?
It’s truly an open question. As well established as the political trenches are, Kosovo is a place where the gap between politics and daily life is notoriously large. Around every corner lies a kaleidoscope of seemingly contradictory behavior. While hearing a Serb rant about the injustices he perceives under Albanian rule, always be prepared for him to break off the conversation to greet his Albanian neighbor and to go for a drink with him. While driving a Serbian car through Albanian heartland, it's not unheard of for a passerby to break the tension by initiating a friendly chat in Serbian, the language all elder people learned at school. Ethnic strife only goes so far in impeding ordinary human relations.
While relations remain difficult, with no obvious solutions in sight, both Serbs and Albanians will continue their daily life — sometimes in conflict, sometimes in parallel universes, sometimes in harmony. It’s a very subtle line to walk.
29 May 2012
Tags: Sisters Eastern Europe Serbian Orthodox Church Serbia Kosovo
A Rosary sister greets a Bedouin child in the abandoned ruins of old Smakieh.
(photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
In the current edition of ONE, journalist Nicholas Seeley reports on life for Bedouins in Jordan’s last Christian villages:
The local church has played a central role in transforming life on the Kerak plateau and ensuring its residents had the education and values to thrive in the modern world. Since the early 20th century, residents have enrolled their children in local Latin Catholic schools, where they received a well-rounded education. The schools have always included the study of foreign language as an integral component of the curriculum, which has helped younger generations succeed in the global job market.
In the early days, priests helped the tribes establish permanent settlements. And nuns taught women to read and write and encouraged them to pursue education.
Father Tarek Abu Hanna, Smakieh’s Latin parish priest, points out that the church not only ran the school, but helped families in other material ways. For example, the school provided meals to the children during the day. Indeed, Teresa Ghasan says that as a child, the only time she ate well was at school.
For more, check out A Bridge to Modern Life in the May edition of ONE.
29 May 2012
Tags: Children Jordan ONE magazine Bedouin
Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, meets Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on 21 June 2007. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
The pope sent a message today to a leading religious figure in the Middle East, and made special note of the struggles still unfolding in the region:
Pope Benedict XVI has sent a message celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Mar Dinkha IV, catholicos patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.
The Assyrian Church’s historical homeland is in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East, but in recent years has spread across the world due to emigration. In his message, Pope Benedict recalled several ecumenical highlights between the two Churches, including the 1994 Common Declaration on Christology and the establishment of a Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
Pope Benedict took the occasion to also express his “solidarity with the Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, praying that effective forms of common witness to the Gospel and pastoral collaboration in the service of peace, reconciliation and unity may be deepened between the Catholic and Assyrian faithful.”
You can read the pope’s complete message here.
And for more on the Assyrian Church of the East, check out Against All Odds: the Assyrian Church.
25 May 2012
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Ecumenism Patriarchs Assyrian Church
In this photo taken in 2003, a woman eats at a soup kitchen run by Caritas Georgia, a social service agency of the Catholic Church in Tbilisi, Georgia. (photo: Dima Chikvaidze)
CNEWA serves the elderly in all of its regions, including Georgia:
“About a year ago, a young man came up to me,” Ms. Rodnova explained.
“He asked me if I lived alone or had any family.” As a lone pensioner, he told her, she was eligible for membership in a soup kitchen run by Caritas Georgia, a social service agency of the Catholic Church receiving support from CNEWA.
Since then, Ms. Rodnova’s entire pension has been spent on a daily subway ride that takes her across town to the large building that houses one of Caritas Georgia’s soup kitchens. The ride is worth it, she said.
“I am not hungry anymore. It’s a long ride across town, but without it I don’t know how I would survive,” she added.
To learn more about our efforts in conjunction with Caritas Georgia, read Human Touch Offers Pensioners Respite from the July 2003 issue of ONE.
24 May 2012
Tags: CNEWA Georgia Caring for the Elderly Caritas
A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Cairo on 23 May.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Today, Egyptians went to the polls for the second day in a row to vote for their first-ever, freely elected president. This comes on the heels of the extreme turmoil of the ‘Arab Spring,’ which has reverberated throughout the Middle East.
Today, The New York Times spoke with voters on this second day of historic elections:
Among the many aspects of the race still shrouded in suspense are the future powers and responsibilities of the next president. A political deadlock prevented the drafting of a new constitution, paving the way for a power struggle between the new president, the elected Parliament and the self-appointed military council. The military council has said it will unilaterally issue an interim constitution before leaving power, but it has not yet done so. It was unclear how elected leaders might respond.
For now, most Egyptians were thinking of simple hopes. “I just want a president,” said Ines Mohamed, 40, a housewife waiting to vote. “I want this to end well, to stop all the chaos, to end the bleeding of corruption.”
For some perspective on the situation in Egypt, read “Arab Spring or Arab Awakening?,” a blog post written by our Education and Interreligious Affairs Officer, Rev. Elias Mallon, back in February. Last month, our office in Canada launched a campaign to help support Egypt’s Christians during this rocky time. To learn more, visit our website.
23 May 2012
Tags: Egypt Africa Arab Spring/Awakening
In this undated photo from our archive, a group of children play in India.
(photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Through the local churches, CNEWA has played a major role in serving the needy in India for many years. To learn about the people and places we serve there, check out Msgr. Kozar’s blog series from his pastoral visit to India earlier this year. It made a powerful impression him.
As Msgr. Kozar put it:
We are privileged and have the honor of reaching out to the needs of so many in India. As much as we might do in helping them, we receive infinitely more as we experience their courage, their kindness, their patience, and especially their FAITH. Yes, above all they are filled with faith. Their trust in God watching over them, with a little help from our CNEWA family, is the great equalizer. It not only keeps them going, but it also brings joy and happiness to their lives…
… I would like to acknowledge our regional director, M.L. Thomas, for his exceptional work in coordinating all our CNEWA efforts in India. He, along with his very devoted staff, serves as the conduit for our charity. It is a huge operation: 349 institutions helped, 22,000 children under sponsorship, thousands of seminarians as adopted spiritual sons, 700 women novices being sponsored and countless projects and programs.
To learn how you can help support the work of CNEWA in India, visit our website.
22 May 2012
Tags: India Children
In this photo taken in 2008, students attend class at the school of St. Charles Orphanage in Beirut, Lebanon. (photo: Sarah Hunter )
In this month’s CNEWA Connections, Gabriel Delmonaco writes about an event he attended in Maryland that helped raise funds for Education and Opportunities for Lebanon (EOL). Through a partnership with CNEWA, EOL — “an all-volunteer board of dedicated individuals... with an interest in helping the children of Lebanon” — has been a lifeline of support for youngsters in that country. Below is some information about St. Charles Orphanage, which EOL has supported in the past:
The St. Charles Orphanage has been caring for neglected and needy children in Lebanon for over 125 years. Currently home to 75 orphaned children, the St. Charles Orphanage also has 500 primary students, 250 technical students, and 100 kindergarten children from very poor families. The small staff, run by Sister Josephine Haddad, cares for the areas neediest children, regardless of religious background, providing hot meals, education, shelter, healthcare and other community services.
Visit our website for more from this month’s CNEWA Connections.
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Children Catholic education Catholic Schools